The mystique of the great Indian “bazaar” has drawn merchants from around the world for thousands of years. Today, little has changed. India, with more than a billion people, a rapidly expanding middle class, and enormous, unrealized growth potential remains an alluring consumer market for international retailers. Napoleon famously referred to the United Kingdom as “a nation of shopkeepers”, a phrase that could just as well describe the erstwhile jewel in the colonial crown – the Indian marketplace of today. Along with opportunity, this vast country presents equally outsized challenges to foreign investors, including inadequate infrastructure, corruption and complex regulatory hurdles.
India’s uneven development means that consumers live in different decades concurrently, necessitating careful micro-segmentation. There are 1,500 dialects spoken in India, 780 languages, and multitudes of co-existing faiths, castes, regional differences and culinary traditions; amid such diversity, even adjacent markets can be profoundly different. The rich, educated professionals in neighborhoods around Bangalore, Delhi and Mumbai, for example, are tightly juxtaposed with the poorer, less well-educated inhabitants in slums nearby.